When Charlotte optometrist Paula Newsome recently visited Haiti on a mission trip, she was struck by the students she observed in the classrooms.
Not one child was wearing eyeglasses.
“That stood out to me,” Newsome said. “There’s no way. Percentages say at least 10 percent of these kids can’t see.”
She performed 568 exams, which is about one third of the total exams her group did, and they dispensed almost 200 pairs of glasses.
When Newsome got back to Charlotte, she said she heard an inner voice telling her to refocus her efforts to provide eye screening to people who are disenfranchised.
“The voice said, ‘There are people right here in Charlotte who need your services who don’t have insurance,’” Newsome said.
As a result, Newsome will offer free vision screenings to the Charlotte community on Aug. 27 at Advantage Vision Center, her office on South Church Street, which has six exams rooms. The only criterion for service is that patients have no health insurance.
Newsome will perform basic eye exams, and her staff and other volunteers will be on hand to prepare patients for exams and help those who need glasses find a pair among the hundreds of donated glasses Newsome has collected.
She now has about 800 pair, which she’s gotten from the Lions Club, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and her patients. Each pair has been measured and labeled with its prescription.
Newsome hopes to see as many as 250 people on Aug. 27, which means her staff won’t be able to offer the personal care they typically provide so that they can maximize the numbers of exams.
Newsome said she saw in Haiti how life changing it could be for someone to be able to see. She said children could drop out of school if they have bad vision.
Poor eyesight can have an even greater impact on adults.
“You are talking about people who can’t see and can’t participate in the workforce,” Newsome said. “Now, they can go fill out a job application.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free eye exams
Paula Newsome’s office at 1016 S. Church St.,Charlotte, will be open 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 for free eye exams.
Donations of used glasses or snacks or water bottles that Newsome’s staff can distribute to people waiting for eye exams on Aug. 27 are welcome.
For information about Advantage Vision Center, visit www.advantagevisioncenter.com.